Book reviewer extraordinaire and writer of elegant prose Isla McKetta tagged me in an online writer’s blog series called The Next Big Thing. Isla is a copywriter by day, novelist by night, Richard Hugo House board member and indefatigable cheerleader of her writer friends. You can read Isla’s responses to to the ten Next Big Thing Questions here. And here are mine:
1. What is your working title of your book?
Her Beautiful Brain
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
When my mother was in her late fifties, she began to forget. A lot. She began to repeat herself. A lot. Renowned since high school for her beautiful brain, my mother was losing her mind to Alzheimer’s disease, bit by bit, just as I became a mother myself. I began writing Her Beautiful Brain because I wanted to tell her story. But as I wrote, I realized it was my story too: of motherhood in the age of Alzheimer’s.
For nearly two decades, her slow erasure shaped our family life. As my children grew, my mother shrank: slowly, for a while, but then rapidly, weirdly, every which way.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Ah, the fun question! Mom at 60: Debra Winger? Me at 35: Rosemary DeWitt?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s about what it was like to become a mom just as my own mother—twice divorced, once widowed, mother of six, loving, unflappable role model to all of us—began to lose her mind to younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Will you be self-published or represented by an agency?
An interesting either-or question! I had an agent, who pitched my book a half-dozen times and then… stopped. But I didn’t know that she’d stopped, not for months. (I know, I know, I should have figured it out!) So now I’m setting out to pitch it myself to midsized and small presses.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About a year and a half.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
When I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I felt a great sense of kinship: her grief for her mother, her anger that this had happened, her determination to figure out what the hell to do with her grief and anger.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My mother inspired me to write. Alzheimer’s disease inspired me to write, because it is so insidious and it’s a galloping epidemic and yet no one wants to see, hear or think about it.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
In 2004, my husband and I produced a film about Mom and Alzheimer’s disease called Quick Brown Fox: an Alzheimer’s Story. Making the film made me realize I had so much more to say. I knew I would write a book, but I also knew that emotionally, I couldn’t start it until after Mom was gone. She died in 2006. Quick Brown Fox has been seen on PBS and other stations all over the world. It’s in educational distribution through Women Make Movies. And you can now watch it on Hulu, Amazon and other digital sites.
I was also tagged in this Next Big Thing game by the talented Donna Miscolta, author of the haunting, lovely novel, When the De La Cruz Family Danced. Read about Donna’s next big thing here. And… by gifted playwright Scott Herman, who is writing a memoir about a loooonngg motorcycle road trip and the girl at the end of it.
Who have I tagged? I personally can’t wait to read what’s next for the multifaceted Wes Andrews, whose Verbalist’s Journal and reading/performance series have added excellent spice to Seattle’s literary scene. And Shahana Dattagupta, author of Thrive! Falling in Love with Life and half of the dynamic duo behind the Courageous Creativity ‘zine.